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Building A Home Abroad

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Moving abroad can be a really nerve wracking but exciting experience at the same time.  One of the most important decisions you will need to make when moving is choosing the location where you would like to live.  This is even more so if you are thinking about building or buying a home abroad.

I’ve watched countless episodes of the tv show “Grand Designs Abroad” and I was always inspired by what people were able to achieve.  For some reason the show always struck a chord with me.  I think it’s something to do with how people were able to get so much house with such little money from their home country.  I’m inspired by the fact that people can watch their dream home come to life right in front of them.

Having been in Ghana for a few years now I have come to discover that I had been watching Grand Designs abroad with extremely tinted glasses.  Don’t get me wrong building a home abroad is a truly wonderful thing BUT there is a high price to pay along the way and i’m not talking monetary terms. So before you skip off into the sunset to begin your dream of building a home abroad consider what you can truly handle.  Weigh up the pros and cons of buying a property verses building one.

On the one hand you have some beautiful homes that are up for sale all around town and they are almost ready for you to move in tomorrow.  On the other hand you could potentially build a house to suit your personality for a fraction of the cost of buying. So which do you choose?

These are two very tempting offers but let me throw some light on each one for you.

Advantages of Buying Your Home Abroad

Buying a home can be great if you have the extra cash lying around.  In my opinion if you can avoid having to take out a mortgage that would be a win situation as you can potentially avoid the very high interest rates attached to some of these mortgages.

If you want to buy a home for Investment purposes thats a great idea too.  If you are buying to invest make sure that you have looked over your numbers really really well because from what I have seen there has been a bit of a downturn in the amount of people who rent properties for huge amounts of dollars.  The days of renting a 3 bedroom apartment in cantonments for $6,000 a month are gone.  You can see it for yourself just by the amount of “to let” signs that are all over the place.

If you want to be in the investment field it is imperative that you make your numbers align so that you have enough margin to recoup your costs but also make a profit too.

The benefits of buying a ready made property are that you have the tangible product in front of you and can immediately begin to make some money from it or alternatively if you are going to move in then it is already good to go.  You don’t need to deal with any builders or pop to the shops to buy extra floor tiles.  It has all already been done for you.

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Advantages of Building Your Home Abroad

The advantages to building your own home abroad is that you get to have the look, the design and the feel of exactly what you want.  You basically get to have that walk in wardrobe exactly the way you want it, exactly the size you want it.

Another great thing about building your own home is that you get to control the finance, meaning that you can stay on top of costs and build for a much cheaper price than it would be if you were to try to buy your “dream home” outright.  If that isn’t a huge positive then I don’t know what is!
Next we need to talk about the disadvantages of each of the options.  I would say the disadvantages are actually more important  because its these points that can make or break you along the way.  Whilst its nice to talk about the advantages those are things that come later. The disadvantages are usually what you will be hit with first.

The Disadvantages of Buying Your Own Home Abroad

Renting is a really great way to get to fully see and understand the disadvantages of buying a house, especially in Ghana!  When we first moved to Ghana we rented out a beautiful 4 bedroom house with an outhouse.  We had seen A LOT of houses before we decided to go for this particular one.

This particular house was in a great neighbourhood, not too much noise, very safe and the house was a great layout for our family.  After about 2 months of living there we started to see some problems.  Firstly there was an awful smell that used to come out from the drainage system in one of the rooms making the room unusable for us and especially any guests that we had.

Also in our ensuite bathroom we started seeing maggots coming out of the ground.  It was horrifying!  We thought the problem might have been with the septic tank but we had that emptied…twice.

When it rained the entire back garden would get flooded with water for days and we could literally hear the frogs croaking in it.  No escape route had been made for the water to flow out.  Not only that but the inside of the house would flood with water too.  The whole kitchen surface would become a swimming pool.  I could go on further but I think you are starting to get my point.

The point being that all that glitters is not gold.  We would never purchase a house that had that amount of problems and certainly not for the price the owner wanted to sell it for shortly afterwards.  Had we purchased that house the amount of work that it needed to fix its problem would have taken all the love out of it for us.  Once a house has been completed the last thing you want to do is to start having to break things down in order to correct problems.

Lets move on and talk about the disadvantages to building.

 

The Disadvantages of Building Your Own Home Abroad

This I could spend a lot of time talking about just because we are currently going though it right now as I type.

It takes a lot of patience to build a house from scratch.  Some of the things that they probably don’t home in on so much when you watch these home building programs is the work that you need to do before you even think about digging out a foundation.  You need to first of all purchase the land.  I won’t go into those details here but you can read my blog post on that here: How To Purchase Land.

After you have purchased the land you need to get your site plan and begin the design process.  These plans have to be signed off by the local council.  You also need to get a permit in order to start building.  When you have done this you can begin your foundation.  Sounds fun right?  Urmm, yes and no because now the hard work really begins.

Sometimes when you have workers there can be somewhat of a language barrier.  They may speak english but their understanding and your understanding can be two completely different things.  For this reason you need a TRUSTED person to be on site with your builders every single minute of the day if you are not able to do so yourself.  This is even more so the case if you personally have little knowledge of construction.

Construction workers can drive you up the wall!  You constantly have to be on their case making sure they are doing what you have asked them to do and not what they think you might like instead.  The building game is not for the faint hearted.

I can’t tell you the amount of times we have given instructions for something to be done and it has gone wrong because either the person didn’t listen or they thought it would be better if they did it their way..  The problem here is that because you are using local workers to build if something goes wrong the cost is at your own expense.

Building a home can be extremely taxing on your mental psyche and you sometimes need a break away just to feel normal again even if its just for a few hours.  It can feel like its never going to end, but it will.  Putting in the finishings will be the most exciting and most stressful part of the process.  A lot of people underestimate how expensive it is to buy tiles, put in a new kitchen, get electricity and water into the house etc.  It can be quite costly especially if you are going for a high end look and feel.

In Conclusion

No matter if you decide to buy a house or build one abroad you will always be met with a challenge.  Should you build or buy?  That very much depends on what you can personally handle.  If you are the type to want to throw in the towel everyday or you don’t want to wait perhaps a year before you can move in then perhaps building is not for you.

If on the other hand you love a challenge and would pretty much be willing to take on anything to get your dream home abroad at a fraction of the cost then I would say go ahead and build because once you’ve built your home you can rest assured you will be able to put your feet up and relax and catch up on all those sleepless nights you had previously.

Personally for us building a home abroad has been really hard work and we have had to make a lot of sacrifice along the way but it is most definitely worth it.  We will be mortgage free once we are done, how many people can say that?

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